The final Grand Slam event of the year begins tomorrow with the US Open, and even without Rafael Nadal, the event figures to be wildly competitive.
Though Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer (on the men's side) and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova (for the women) figure to be the favorites, there's a chance that an unexpected competitor could sneak up on the leaders to best the field.
Let's take a look at three such dark horses who might have more than a puncher's chance at stealing the Open.
It's been five years since Berdych has made it out of the third round of the US Open, but that doesn't mean this can't be his year.
Berdych has the pure talent to run the table at this tournament. He's the seventh-ranked player in the world and boasts a 37-15 record in matches this year.
Though he lost in the first round at both Wimbledon and the London Olympics, Berdych is in his prime at 26, and with an open field in this tournament, he just might break through.
John Isner is fresh off a tournament win at Winston-Salem, and he's riding high.
Isner is best known for being a part of the longest match ever when he hooked up with Nicholas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, but he has also likely taken the torch from Andy Roddick as the top American contender.
Tennis fans know of Isner's wicked serve—with Isner, the breaks aren't even terribly important. As long as he holds serve, he's a tough out.
Though, like Berdych, he doesn't have a track record of success at the Open, Isner could seize this opportunity to break through at Flushing Meadows.
The biggest obstacle in the path of Kvitova (who is fresh off a New Haven Open victory against Maria Kirilenko) is her longtime foe Maria Sharapova.
The two find themselves in the same bracket again in this US Open; they've met twice at the Australian Open and Roland Barros this year, with Sharapova besting Kvitova both times.
If Kvitova can overcome Sharapova (as she did in the 2011 Wimbledon final) she'll have a strong chance at a deep run in the US Open.
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